Schools across western SD move up a step in their COVID-19 protocols
HOT SPRINGS, S.D. — Schools across the area are revising plans as staff shortages due to illnesses are making in-person lessons challenging. Hot Springs School District took proactive measures this past week after large numbers of staff began calling in sick.
“That number grew to 20 to 25 percent of our staff members mainly at the secondary level, grades 6 through 12, and to the extent that we couldn’t cover all of the classrooms, and when you can’t cover all of the classrooms, now all of a sudden you have to combine students,” explains Dennis Fischer, Superintendent of Hot Springs School District.
Fischer explained that absent staff leads to combining classes, which minimizes social distancing. That’s why many schools in the area have opted to move up a level or tier in their COVID-19 plans, either adding mask requirements, like Douglas School District, or jumping into remote learning, like Hot Springs.
“It gets hard to continue the learning process if we have a lot of staff out, so we’re just trying to be proactive and do what we can to stay open,” adds Katy Urban, Communications Coordinator of Douglas School District.
Many districts are assessing cases and absences each day, allowing returns to classrooms as quickly as possible.
“With our numbers the way they’re looking right now, we’re expecting to get the majority of our staff members back, and certainly enough to be able to operate school as normal on Monday,” Fischer adds, speaking on the Hot Springs plans.
Plus, Fischer points out that distanced learning is now observed to be more effective than the first go-around in 2020, because more training and adaptation has taken place among instructors and kids.
“We did a lot of training with our teachers, and so they started to incorporate Google Classroom into their daily lessons,” Fischer says. “So now when students are at home, they’re used to looking at the Google Classroom page and following along and they can do virtual lectures, or recorded lectures or a variety of things. So we’re quite a ways away from where we were two years ago which is great to see.”
District leaders continue to examine absences and make decisions for the coming weeks.